What is in this guide
- Why should organisations network?
- Important things to know about networking
- How to do systematic networking
Networking means staying in touch with organisations and key individuals who can affect your work or help you to achieve your goals. Networking can serve many purposes and can help you to:
- Build alliances that will strengthen your work
- Stay in touch with developments in your area of work
- Get access to information that will help your work
- Influence other organisations to take up and support your issues
- Influence individual decision-makers
Networking should be an ongoing and systematic part of your work. Networking is not just diplomacy and public relations it should be meaningful communication and co-operation between organisations with shared interests.
There are many different ways to network. Some of the methods are informal or form part of your normal work, others are part of setting up a networking system [see next section]. Here are some examples:
- Send your newsletters and information pamphlets to organisations and individuals you want to network with.
- Get to know key people in organisations that share your interests and talk to them regularly about common issues and problems.
- Attend the meetings, AGMs and events of other organisations
- Attend political and community events where key organisations and decision-makers will be present.
- Attend conferences, seminars, consultation meetings, etc. Make sure your organisation is represented by someone who can speak for and raise the profile of your organisation. Lots of informal networking happens at these events.
- Offer support and advice to other organisations when you can and ask for it when you need it.
- Use your skills, contacts and expertise to help key decision-makers and organisations networking happens naturally when you work together.
- Always have copies of your brochures and contact details so that you can hand it out to any useful contacts you meet.
- Use email and the internet to network with national or international organisations who are working on similar issues
Remember that networking should have a purpose and should be with people who have the same interests as your organisation, or decision makers who can affect your work. Do not make a pest of yourself by contacting people just for the sake of doing so.
It is important to build up a system that can be used for networking. It is best to gather all the names of organisations and individuals, their contact details and their areas of interest. Then you should divide these lists into categories or topics. For example if you work on housing and crime, set up a separate network contact list for each topic. Here is an example of a system you can use:
Issues they deal with
- you should think about all the different sectors in your community and put in the ones that you should network with in each sector you will then have to list the relevant organisations or individuals. For example under the health sector you may want to list the clinic, the municipal health committee, the local Red Cross society and local doctors.
Examples of sectors are:
Issues - Fill in the third column to record what issues or areas the organisation or person works on. This will help you to network with the right group on the right issue.
Contact person - Networking works best if you have individual contact people you work with in each organisation. This will ensure that faxes, newsletters and other information reaches the right person. It will also help you if you build a relationship with an individual who understands your work and is sympathetic to your issues. Put the contact persons details in the fourth and fifth columns.
Network code - In the sixth column you should put a code for the kind of networking you do with that contact for example:
C - if you can involve them in your campaigns
N - if you should send newsletters to that person
CM - if you should invite them to consultation meetings
R if they are useful for discussing and sharing research
P if you should talk to them about policy issues
Use your networking system as much as possible. It is not good to just contact people once a year for an event or a campaign. Stay in touch and communicate as much as is needed.
Keep the sheet with network details on a wall in your office if you hide it in a file you may forget to use it.
When you develop your communication strategy, make sure that information goes directly to these organisations.
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